At 35, Gwen is a successful businesswoman—an executive in advertising— and well-regarded but her personal life is another story. As the daughter of a highly controlling mother whom she tries desperately to please but who makes her feel like a failure because nothing she does is ever good enough, she still struggles with relationships: “ I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a girlfriend or a lover—I anticipate rejection all the time. It’s driving my current boyfriend crazy, in fact. I think he’s tired of reassuring me.”
While the details of childhood and the makeup of each household are different, when unloved daughters tell their stories, patterns emerge. Culled from literally hundreds of stories that have been shared with me over years, here are some feelings all daughters of unloving mothers share.